• France edition
 
JEWISH SCHOOL SHOOTING
Police link scooter to three shootings
BFM TV screenshot

Police link scooter to three shootings

Published: 19 Mar 2012 17:38 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Mar 2012 17:38 GMT+01:00

The same stolen scooter was used in three deadly shooting incidents in eight days in France, a police source said Monday after three children and a teacher were killed at a Jewish school.

Police have also said the same gun was used in the attacks, drawing a clear link between the school shootings and the murder of three soldiers that have shocked France.

The shooting, which was immediately branded as an anti-Semitic attack, plunged the nation into shock.

President Nicolas Sarkozy declared the murders a "national tragedy" as anti-terror police probed the third fatal shooting involving a gunmen wielding what police said was the same pistol in the Toulouse area in recent days.

France stepped up security at Jewish and Muslim schools following the assault on the Ozar Hatorah school, which local parents, rights groups and the government denounced as an anti-Semitic atrocity.

Two boys aged three and six and their father, a 30-year-old religious studies teacher who witnesses said tried to protect them, were gunned down, along with the 10-year-old daughter of the director of the school.

The gunman opened fire on a crowd as children and teachers arrived for class in the morning, then charged on to school grounds. A fifth victim, a 17-year-old boy, was left in a critical condition.

The killer escaped on what witnesses said was a powerful scooter. 

Last week, three French paratroopers – all of North African descent – were killed in two similar incidents in the same region, also involving a scooter-rider wielding the same powerful .45 calibre handgun.

"This tragedy has left the entire national community distraught," Sarkozy declared at the scene, his voice audibly cracking as he sent condolences to the Jewish community and the mother who lost a husband and two children.

He said a moment of silence would be observed Tuesday in all French schools, security would be stepped up around religious establishments in the region and police reinforcements be deployed to hunt down the gunman.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as a "despicable murder of Jews" saying it could not be ruled out that it was "motivated by violent and murderous anti-Semitism".

The attack was the first of its kind apparently targeting Jews since the Rue des Rosiers massacre in 1982, in which six people died in a shooting at a restaurant in Paris's most famous Jewish district.

Campaigning in France's presidential election was effectively suspended, while both the right-wing incumbent Sarkozy and his Socialist rival Francois Hollande rushed to Toulouse to pay their respects.

"We cannot back down in the face of terror," Sarkozy said, vowing his interior minister would stay in Toulouse until the crime was solved.

"And of course our thoughts are with these shattered families, with this mother who at the same moment lost her children and her husband, with the director of the school who saw his daughter die before his eyes.

"Barbarism, savagery, cruelty cannot win. Hate cannot win. The Republic is too strong for that, much too strong," he said.

The president said that while the inquiry was proceeding with caution, he had been struck by the apparent links between the three shootings. 

Paris anti-terrorist prosecutors took charge of all three probes.

The Ozar Hatorah association runs a small religious school for 200 people in a quiet suburb of Toulouse, a large city with a 25,000-strong Jewish minority.

Local prosecutor Michel Valet said: "Shortly before eight o'clock (0700 GMT) a man on a powerful scooter or a motorbike dismounted and shot at everything he could see. At children as well as adults.

"This individual also chased some children into the school," he said.  

Distraught and often angry parents – denouncing what many saw as an obvious anti-Semitic attack – converged on the scene shortly after the shooting as frightened children were brought out in small groups.

"I came to the school this morning for prayers," said six-year-old Alexia.

"Five minutes later we heard shots, and we were very afraid. We were gathered in a room and prayed together while we waited for our parents."

The gunman initially used a nine-millimetre weapon but it jammed so he switched to a .45-calibre gun as he stormed the school, police said.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant ordered security to be tightened around all religious buildings in France, which has Europe's largest Jewish community estimated at up to 700,000 people.

"Like all my fellow countrymen, I am overwhelmed with emotion after this grave event, an act of anti-Semitism against Jewish children," Gueant said.

The first victim in the trio of shootings died on March 11, a 30-year-old non-commissioned officer who was in civilian clothes when he was shot dead in Toulouse at point blank range.

On Thursday three more paratroopers, based this time in nearby Montauban, were shot while standing at a cash machine outside their barracks.

Two victims – sappers from 17th Parachute Engineering Regiment aged 26 and 24 – died on the spot. The third man, a 28-year-old from the same regiment, was left in a critical condition with spinal injuries.

Witnesses saw a black-clad motorcyclist walk up to the men, who were in uniform but unarmed, and open fire at point blank range.

The killer had time to turn over one of the wounded who was trying to crawl away and fire three more shots into him before getting back on the scooter and making his escape.

The military ordered troops based in the region not to wear their uniforms outside barracks following the attacks.

 

Don't miss...X
Left Right
Today's headlines
France pushes Middle East to battle IS fighters
France has called on Middle East nations to battle Islamic State fighters. Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP

France pushes Middle East to battle IS fighters

France urged Middle East nations to take a stand against the Islamic State fighters operating nearly unchecked in Syria and Iraq. The French president also plans to set up an international summit to craft a response to the extremists. READ  

'Apocalyptic' vomiting bug hits French tourists
Hundreds of French tourists fell ill at a posh Greek resort. Photo: Screengrab/Lindo Hotels

'Apocalyptic' vomiting bug hits French tourists

Hundreds of French tourists fell violently sick a a posh Greek hotel creating what one visitor called an "apocalyptic" scene that had guests vomiting in the swimming pool and hallways. READ  

The view from La Rue
Paris tourists defy anti-love locks crusade
A campaign to persuade tourists to take selfies rather lock padlocks to bridges is falling on deaf ears it seems. Photo: AFP

Paris tourists defy anti-love locks crusade

After Paris launched a campaign to persuade tourists to throw away their love locks and pose for selfies instead, The Local popped down to the famous Pont des Arts to find loved-up visitors defiantly refusing to put down their pad locks. READ  

Hollande unveils reforms to help France's hard-up
François Hollande has announced a raft of reforms imed at boosting the country's most hard-up. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Hollande unveils reforms to help France's hard-up

President François Hollande on Wednesday vowed to go "faster and further" with reforms as he announced a raft of measures to bolster France's stagnant economy including fairer income tax levels and a relaxation of Sunday shopping rules. READ  

Future of Paris 'not promising', study says
Paris is among the world's most influential cities, but for how much longer? Photo: La Defense.

Future of Paris 'not promising', study says

A new study says Paris is in the top three of the world's most influential cities, but its position is under threat and the city's future is apparently "not promising". READ  

Northern France hopes beer will boost tourism
Nord-Pas-de-Calais hopes to take advantage of its beer heritage to boost tourism. Photo: Thomas Huguen/AFP

Northern France hopes beer will boost tourism

It already has wine, champagne and cider and but a hard-up region of northern of France, is hoping to boost its local tourism industry by tapping into another drink which forms part of its proud heritage – locally brewed beer. READ  

Interview: Liberation of Paris
'Three years underground and then the call came'
David Leiba was a Jewish French resistance fighter who helped liberate Paris from the Nazis. Photo: Joshua Melvin/The Local

'Three years underground and then the call came'

David Leiba lived underground as a French resistance fighter for years before resurfacing in the rebellion that forced the German army out of Paris. He tells The Local of his memories of the ecstatic and terrifying final moments of the Nazi occupation READ  

Hollande returns to work as problems mount up
President François Hollande and his PM Manuel Valls discuss their return to work. Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP

Hollande returns to work as problems mount up

The French president returns to the front line on Wednesday for his first cabinet meeting. On his packed agenda will be the stagnant economy, the threat of deflation, unemployment and more in-fighting within his own party. READ  

France tries to take sting out of Asian hornets
France is fighting back against the Asian hornet, using rods, chickens and drones. Photo: T-Mizo/Flickr

France tries to take sting out of Asian hornets

After slipping into southwest France 10 years ago in a pottery shipment from China Asian hornets have since invaded more than half the country. Now France is fighting back, using drones, poisoned rods and even chickens. READ  

Liberation of Paris: Ten things you need to know
Ten facts you didn't know about the liberation of Paris, including how many female collaborators were "purified". Photo: Critical past/YouTube

Liberation of Paris: Ten things you need to know

From the "purifying" of thousands of women, to pool room surrenders, here's ten facts about a momentous moment in French history that you might not have known about. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
Culture
VIDEO: Francophile Robin Williams enjoyed poking fun at the French
Travel
Six reasons why France is the world's top tourist destination
International
Remembering the 'forgotten campaign' in the liberation of France
Gallery
VIDEO: French bucket list - The 12 best things to do in France
International
Do three French cities deserve to be in top 10 "World 's Most Unfriendly"?
Gallery
Don't make a faux pas! Ten things not to do when working in France
Health
Ebola: What is the risk of it coming to France?
Health
Are the French really a nation of smokers?
Culture
Frightened by the prospect of long French dinners? You're not alone
National
'Stay in Paris in August? You'd have to be crazy'
International
Calais migrant crisis: 'People will be killed if nothing is done'
Culture
Paris is closed for August, but will it always be like that?
Culture
Paris: The not-so-Grande Arche has fallen into a sorry state
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se